The long running Armored Core series has been around on consoles for what feels like forever, but the battle mech titles have always been a genre I’ve avoided, since the tech heavy slow battles always felt more suited to PC than console gaming. That was until last year, when From Software released one of the greatest console games, Dark Souls. Since then, this developer has been on my radar and as no more Souls game are close to release, the Armored series caught my attention.
The wish to strap into a huge lumbering robot and battle it out against others has always seemed to be an Eastern thing, with game like Robotech, Gundam and BattleTech occasionally reaching the attention of fans over here, but nowhere near like the Japanese crave for them, with this series releasing a solid line of titles since 1997 and showing no sign of easing up.
The wish to strap into a huge lumbering robot and battle it out against others has always seemed to be an Eastern thing.
Just like the Souls games, difficulty and complexity was always more of a put off rather than a selling point. Even after spending some decent time with Armored Core V, it’s still a series I feel I need to have more time with, even after finishing this review, although to get to that point there is an awful lot of chaff to work through.
The story is rather ambiguous with a lot left to the imagination other than “The Father” is bad and you need to overthrow his rule. To be fair though, when you can pilot these one-manned death machines, stacked with some awesome arsenal at your disposal, who cares about story? But first you need to figure out how to use them. The general gist in both single and online play is that you need to accomplish a set amount of story and Order (side) missions, slowly building up a decent cash supply and creating your own personal ultimate mech, slowly freeing regions of the world previously ruled by The Father. Battles are pretty straight forward in the tasks, with a simple kill everything that moves until a checkpoint is reached mentality, interspersed with a few side missions like killing a set amount of drones or completing a mission in a set time.
This however is not an easy task with the main story missions getting extremely hard after only a couple completed. Most enemies being too well protected against your constant barrage and the game leaves you to figure out for yourself how to earn more cash and also how to create and improve your current mech, which results in lots of repeated play and many deaths to work out the simple things; like what the benefits are and who you can damage using the three main weapons systems Kinetic Energy, Chemical Energy and Thermal Energy, which mean absolutely nothing until you just test each on the field.
The Mechs you pilot can carry a huge array of weapons, used by fired utilising the shoulder buttons and a quick change to switch to your other sets. This enables you to choose from a range including standard shotguns, Gatling guns, close quarter energy blades and long distance sniper rifles, though to call these standard is a bit of a misnomer as the rifles are the size of a bus. Depending on your mechs load-out limitations you can pretty much take what you want onto the battlefield, but again the game does not help in the slightest with these choices, leaving an awful lot of trial and error. To get a feel for the styles of mech available you are able to run around using the “vanilla” modes, offering the spry two legged assault class to the huge heavy weapons defenders that run on huge tank tracks. Though customisation is the draw here, for any newcomers it will be a strain to figure out what is required as you get comfortable with the game and earn some cash to purchase more items that include new body parts and armour and weapons, allowing you to mix up whatever you fancy, as long as its within weight and power consumption limits.
Though an absolute slog to get set up and up to speed with what is required of you, my misconceptions of this genre are swiftly set aside once on the battle field, where the action is a lot more smoother and faster than I expected. This is mainly down to the size of your mech; being a little smaller than usual enables a quicker movement using jumps and boosts, really making the gameplay a lot more frantic.
Though I come across as negative on the single player, that is because it’s really an online only game, as where you will struggle on your own, online really opens up the game with online running seamlessly in the background, awaiting your next command. When starting online, Armored Core V allows you to create or join a mech team, where you can participate in brutal team battles that require close team work plus carry out attempts to take over world. The 8 global segments are littered with missions alongside the usual story and Order missions. Some allow for an attempt to conquer an area under the Conquest mode, with your total team points determining where you can attack and once captured, what sort of computer controlled defenders you can utilize for when you are away. To build these points to carry out a Conquest attack you need to complete other smaller missions in occupied land, like the blast fest Blitz mode or Data recovery missions where you raid the area for vital information. Each of these can be carried out solo but with you teammates around you it makes them a lot easier. Even if you are focusing on the story missions you can also hire or offer your services in the Mercenaries mode, connecting with friends or random players just to even the odds on the battle field.
While there are many issues with Armored Core V, in the end the action speaks for itself.
The graphics and sound are a mixed bag, being well executed and poorly designed. The mechs are created with great attention to detail and an in depth ability to customize many aspects, they look great in action, although when walking looking a little false. The cut scenes look amazing, but are marred by the poor and uninspiring environments, e.g . Very basic looking buildings with even a little pop up occurring.
While there are many issues with Armored Core V, in the end the action speaks for itself. If you have the patience to get through the initial frustrating learning curve this may turn you into a fan, though I can’t help but think this type of game is more suited for a PC.
Rating: GoodReview Policy(version tested: PS3)
You can pre-order Armored Code V from ShopTo here (PS3) and here (Xbox 360).